Fossils of the Chalk. Second edition, revised and enlarged

Fossils of the Chalk. Second edition, revised and enlarged

Cretaceous Research 25 (2004) 623 Book review Fossils of the Chalk. Second edition, revised and enlarged A.B. Smith, ...

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Cretaceous Research 25 (2004) 623

Book review Fossils of the Chalk. Second edition, revised and enlarged A.B. Smith, D.J. Batten (Eds.). 2002, The Palaeontological Association, Field Guides to Fossils, No. 2, 384 pp., 69 pls. ISBN 0-901-702-78-2, £14/ $US28/V22 The Palaeontological Association’s Field Guides to Fossils series was initiated nearly 20 years ago. The outcome has been a run of high-quality, multi-authored, soft-covered identification guides to classic fossil assemblages, principally from Great Britain. ‘Fossils of the Chalk’ was first published in 1987 as part of that series (Owen and Smith, 1987). Before then, detailed, accurate identification of fossils from the British Chalk normally necessitated access to Palaeontographical Society monographs, and papers disseminated amongst a range of journals. For the first time, a major body of information was available in one volume. The detailed descriptions, up-to-date names, and high-quality photographs of nearly 400 invertebrate and vertebrate taxa covered most of the major fossil groups from southern Britain’s Upper Cretaceous terrains. Personally, the book became an invaluable aid whilst working on the classic coastal sections of Cretaceous strata on the Isle of Wight in the early 1990s, and curating collections of Chalk fossils. However, it was subject to some criticism. The summary of Chalk stratigraphy and palaeoenvironments lacked detail, and several widely encountered fossil groups were absent, most conspicuously the nautiloids. ‘Fossils of the Chalk, Second Edition’ was published by the Palaeontological Association in 2002 and builds upon the strengths of the first. It has been extensively revised and now comprises 374 pages, compared to 306 in the first edition. The new volume, edited by Andrew Smith and David Batten, features a comprehensive introduction to Chalk chronostratigraphy, biostratigraphy and lithostratigraphy, written by Andy Gale and Jim Kennedy. This explains Chalk palaeoenvironments and palaeoecology with sufficient clarity for the non-specialist. The significance of calcareous nannoplankton in chalk sedimentology is explained, though surprisingly the book does not include a single photograph or line drawing of a coccolith. Basic study and identification of Chalk nannoplankton is not beyond the realm of the amateur, given the ease of extraction and construction of smear slides. The introduction additionally draws attention to the widespread bioturbation and its significance for formation of flints and hardgrounds. However, amongst doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2004.05.004

the trace fossils there is no mention of the widespread bioerosion of skeletal remains, and the utility of bioerosion traces in determination of bathymetry and sedimentation rates. I would also argue for a short note on reworked flint fossils, widespread amongst Quaternary gravels, glacial tills and modern beach deposits. The number of species described and figured has grown to over 400. This is largely due to the inclusion of chapters covering corals, serpulid worms and nautiloids, notable omissions from the first edition. Notwithstanding 14 contributors and descriptive chapters, the book presents a good consistency of descriptive style and photographic quality. Amongst the latter, Andy Gale’s photographic plates of solitary corals and serpulidencrusted macrofossils are exquisite. Each chapter commences with an introductory section addressing previous research and, in some cases, aspects of palaeobiology, fossil distribution and preservation. I would argue for further expansion if a third edition were planned. Trace fossils deserve a dedicated chapter and the same could be said for foraminifera and ostracods. In southern Britain the Upper Cretaceous Chalk is a very familiar rock-type, deeply entrenched in southern and eastern English geodiversity and landscape character. From a global perspective the Chalk ranks as a rather unusual deposit, yielding a remarkable and well-preserved marine fauna. This compact book captures this uniqueness. Minor criticisms apart, the new volume is a stunning body of work and exceptional value for money. It will appeal to students, lecturers, collectors and museum curators, as well as researchers of Cretaceous palaeontology and palaeoenvironments throughout NW Europe and beyond. References Owen, E., Smith, A.R. (Eds.), 1987. Fossils of the Chalk. Palaeontological Association Field Guides to Fossils, No. 2. Palaeontological Association, 306 pp.

Jonathan D. Radley School of Earth and Environmental Sciences University of Portsmouth, Burnaby Road Portsmouth PO1 3QL, UK and Department of Earth Sciences University of Bristol Queen’s Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK